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Eagles reportedly host former first-round pick on free agent visit

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles hosted free agent defender Keanu Neal on a visit at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Yes, that’s the same Keanu Neal who unintentionally played a pivotal role in the Eagles ultimately winning Super Bowl LII. Instead of intercepting a badly overthrown Nick Foles pass, Neal somehow managed to have the ball bounce off his knee and into the hands of Torrey Smith. That unlikely completion help to set up a Jake Elliott 53-yard field goal that put the Eagles down by just one point at halftime in a Divisional Round playoff game that they ultimately won by a score of 15 to 10.

Maybe the Eagles brought him in just to say thanks for that?

Or maybe they’re truly interested in signing the No. 17 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft.

Neal, who turns 28 in July, has mostly played at safety during his NFL career but he did spend the 2021 season taking snaps at linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s not perfectly clear how the Eagles envision his potential fit in their defense. They can certainly afford to add more talent at both of the positions he can play.

Neal lined up at safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, where he logged eight starts in 17 games played. He logged 63 total tackles, one interception, four passes defensed, five quarterback hits, and half a sack.

Pro Football Reference’s charting indicates Neal allowed a 121.9 passer rating when targeted. Pro Football Focus graded him 73rd (one spot above Marcus Epps at 74th) out of 94 safeties last year (minimum 20% snaps played).

Neal has avoided missing too much playing time each of the past three seasons after injuries (an ACL and an Achilles) limited him to four games played in 2018 and 2019 combined.

The Eagles shouldn’t be signing Neal to be a sure-fire starter in their defense. But it wouldn’t hurt to bring the hard-hitting defender in on a low guarantee deal and have him compete for a role on the team.

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